Monday was my last day of my first summer school class. This one was an experiment, taught in Baltimore about Baltimore, and I only had a handful of students. Getting UMBC students to travel all the way to Baltimore is going to be a trick, but I’m dedicated to figuring out how to pull it off. This first time around might have been a small group, but it was so much fun that I was reluctant to cancel our last in-person meeting of the minimester, even though campus was officially closed. I’m not one to work on holidays or weekends–too many people have worked too hard and sacrificed too much for me to work on those days–but there I was, holding class, because I wanted to.
But then one by one students couldn’t come, all for good reasons, so I made the class optional and headed down to the Lion Building in Hollins Park to see if anyone would join me. They didn’t, so I spent my class time grading, writing, and recording a short video lecture of stuff I would have said to them if they’d been there. I was all done a bit before 4pm, so headed out to my bike to go back up the hill to home. I decided to take MLK’s alleged multi use path just this one time to see if maybe I had been being too hard on it. Some of MLK is landscaped in ways that suggest the designers wanted us to walk, bicycle, and hang out here, but it feels like chilling next to a freeway, which is not exactly relaxing. The brick pathway might look nice, but with all the missing and loose bricks it’s just a minefield for bikes, wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, or any kind of assistive device. But hey, I figured I should try it.
And it was fine for a few blocks until the path led me straight into turning traffic at Franklin Street and funneled me into what’s now called Heritage Crossing. If I’d actually been trying to get somewhere that would have been a total drag. As it was I was happy to be off the MLK freeway and on to quiet streets. I tooled around Heritage Crossing a bit, wished my students were with me so we could talk about how there used to be a spring and well right here, how different visions of public housing have turned over each other here, how the wall functions to keep this particular section of West Baltimore separated from the wealth spreading out on the other side of MLK, but it was just me, thinking about this stuff as I took right turn after right turn trying to figure out which direction I was headed so I could eventually head back to Mount Vernon to meet N. for an afternoon beer. I pedaled and pedaled, saying my how you doin’s, reminding myself to spend more time riding over here even thought it’s a trick to get there, and then I saw State Center and rode that general direction to reorient myself. I once spent a half our circling State Center trying to find a way into its Brutalist shell so I could open a credit union account, but I’ve lived here long enough that its presence is actually helpful for finding, not just getting lost.
I passed this Mormon church as I pulled up to MLK. I’m from Idaho, a state filled with Mormons, but I rarely meet Mormons out here, though I do see missionaries crossing MLK sometimes, and now I know where they’re heading to and from! It was like getting a surprise taste of Boise in Baltimore, in an unexpected place. The light turned finally turned green, I headed across and right and left and was back on the route I take almost every day, happy to remind myself that there’s so much I haven’t seen in this city, and that it’s still so easy to get just a little bit lost.